September is National Preparedness Month and county officials are urging all residents to be prepared for any emergencies they may encounter.

The Board of County Commissioners recently issued a resolution declaring this month National Preparedness Month in Ashtabula County.

“National Preparedness Month creates an important opportunity for every resident of Ashtabula County to prepare their homes, businesses, and communities for any type of emergency including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks,” the resolution states. The resolution urges people to visit the federal government’s ready.gov website to learn about ways to prepare for a variety of emergency scenarios.

When it comes to weather, the region is no stranger to strong winds, thunderstorms, flooding, heavy snow and even tornados. In recent weeks damaging storms in Ashtabula County left thousands without power for more than 24 hours.

To date this year, the National Weather Service Cleveland office, which includes Ashtabula County in its territory, has issued 208 severe thunderstorm warnings, 17 tornado warnings and 22 winter weather warnings and advisories.

Commissioner Casey Kozlowski said it is vital for everyone to be prepared for when disasters such as flooding, tornadoes or severe storms strike.

“Many think it may not happen here or that it occurs other places,” Kozlowski said. “But an emergency can occur at anytime and its important that county residents be prepared as best they can.”

Mike Fitchet, Emergency Management Agency director, said the ready.gov website is a wealth of information for businesses and homeowners.

“They really have planning aspects for preparedness down from winter storm kits for your car to home escape plans and tornado preparedness,” Fitchet said.

Fitchet, who was a fire chief prior to being the EMA director, said in Ashtabula County people always need to consider the effect storms in summer or winter can have.

Regardless of the time of year a storm may occur, or whether it involves snow, ice or rain, the end result can be an inability to travel or the loss of certain utilities like water, electricity or heat.

“Things you need to think of are do I have batteries for my cell phone and flashlight,” Fitchet said. “If it’s winter do you have an alternate source of heat?”

And although Ohioans don’t live in areas where hurricanes or wildfires will wipe out entire cities, Fitchet said the Williamsfield tornado of 2017 proves how quickly destruction of homes and utilities can occur if a tornado or high winds hit an area.

Whether having some cases of water stocked away, or a list of phone numbers of loved ones, doctors or prescriptions, Fitchet said it is good to be ready for the unexpected.

“Hopefully we don’t have many of these events but if we do they go much smoother if you’ve done some work,” Fitchet said. “You can’t plan for everything, but preparedness goes a long way. It’s a year-round process.”

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